Thursday, September 15, 2016

Do black patent shoes really reflect up ?



The book shown above was published by the late John .R. Powers in 1975. It was subsequently adapted into a Broadway musical and a screenplay. The book is a hilarious tale about growing up in the Catholic faith, and Powers drew heavily from his own experience growing up as a Catholic in Chicago in the 1950’s. The book is the 2nd novel that he published. The first was “The Last Catholic in America”, and was part of what became known as “the Eddie Ryan trilogy. The 1977 novel titled “The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice Cream God” rounded out the trilogy.



I graduated from a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school, as did my sister. In addition, she also graduated from a Catholic all girl’s college. Naturally, the books written by Mr. Powers brought back a lot of memories, most of them fond. Even today, I still get regular mailings from my high school, even though I graduated from there more than 50 years ago.

The REASON that I get those mailings has a lot less to do with my alma mater’s affection for me than it does for its need to raise cash for scholarships. I have no idea what my parents paid for my tuition, but I’m fairly certain it was less than $500 a year. Truth be told, it was actually a very good education, since a high percentage of the students who attended there were in college prep classes.

Today, the tuition for grades 9-12 at what is now known as Hill-Murray (the boy’s and girl’s schools merged about 10 years after I graduated) is a jaw-dropping $13,245, which is more than COLLEGE tuition at the public universities in the state of Arizona. In total, donations from various businesses and individuals have helped to create a scholarship fund of $1.34 million. Although the current tuition level sounds high, it is actually very comparable to other private schools around the country.

Some of my current “hot buttons” (concern for the environment and issues of social justice) are the result of seeds that were sown at Mary T. Hill high school.

Somewhere along the line, I followed the path of many folks who grew up Catholic, and simply stopped considering myself to be a Catholic. For a variety of reasons, nearly HALF of the people in this country who were raised in the Catholic faith no longer practice that faith. In part, that’s a reflection of our society in general. Although 70.6% of the American population still consider themselves to be Christian, all of the “mainline” religions have seen a decline. Between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves to be Catholic declined from 23.9% to 20.8%. The only religious group that grew in that time period was “unaffiliated”, which rose from 16.1% of the population to 22.8%.

Although our Founding Fathers were very firm about separating church and state, there are numerous nods to religion in our society, including adding “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954. In 1956, “in God we trust” was adopted as our official national motto, replacing the unofficial motto of “E pluribus Unum. In recent years, a number of cities have added “in God we trust” to their police cars, which very few people got excited about. However, the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck is the first Muslim majority city in America. If they decided to add “Allah be praised” to THEIR police cars, it would take roughly a nanosecond for the right wing conservatives in our country to go ballistic. Bill O’Reilly would probably go into immediate cardiac arrest, and the rest of the FOC crew would spend HOURS debating the impropriety of the act.

Inevitably, of course, religion has crept into our politics. As a result, people who have no business at all holding office get elected due to the fact that “they are good Christians”. Representative Louis Gohmert is the prime example of this phenomenon, but Minnesota has Michelle Bachman, and Arizona has Sylvia Allen.

In the 2008 election cycle, I was initially supportive of the candidates from both parties, but as soon as John McCain selected Sara Palin as his running mate, it became obvious that I needed to vote for Barack Obama.

In 2012, the choice was easier due to the fact that (1) the Obama administration had made significant progress in correcting the mess left by George W. Bush and (2) the Republican Party has gradually been destroyed by the Tea Party and other right wing factions, which has caused it to become a political party that neither Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower would recognize.

For 2016, the decision is a slam dunk.

Donald Trump does not have the knowledge, the experience, or the temperament to lead our country. On top of that, he is a failed businessman (as evidenced by his 4 bankruptcies) , a prolific adulterer, and a pathological liar. Studies by a variety of fact checking organizations have found that he tells the truth less than 30% of the time.

Hillary Clinton is not the charismatic figure exemplified by Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, or John F. Kennedy. What she IS, though, is one of the MOST QUALIFIED Presidential candidate that we have ever had, a fact that was brought home while I worked my way through her 2014 book titled “Hard Choices”, which chronicles her work while she was Secretary of State. It’s very clear that the work of a diplomat is very delicate work. In addition to his other faults, Trump’s temperament would actually be a GRAVE DANGER for our country, since he would make it more difficult for our diplomatic corps to keep all of us safe.

Hillary has been the victim of 25 years of “witch hunts” by the opposing party. Although the farcical Benghazi “investigations” have finally come to an end, there are STILL people who bring up her emails, and Matt Lauer is the most recent example of that stupidity. If any commentator brought up the topic at any of th Presidential debates (the first is scheduled for September 26th) I’d like to see him shot on the spot, which obviously is not going to happen.

I try to keep an open mind on a variety of topics, which is why I read articles from both progressive and conservative sources. Over a period of years, I have discovered that conservative sources have gotten less reliable, in large part due to the success of FOX “news” and the rise of conservative radio talk show personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones.

I saw an article recently that professed the belief that you couldn’t be a good Catholic and a Democrat, an idea that is clearly preposterous. You may or may not agree with all of the ideas contained in the 2016 Democratic platform (which IS a very progressive platform), but it wouldn’t take you more than a few minutes of reading the 2016 Republican platform to reach the conclusion that the Party has clearly lost its mind. Although it IS possible that the orange menace could get elected, Nate Silver and other pollsters have all concluded that it’s not likely to happen. As a matter of fact, it’s now quite likely that Trump will continue to pull down the rest of the Republican Party, and cause the Senate to return to the control of “the adults in the room” (the Democrats). Although gerrymandering by state legislatures mean that it is unlikely that the Republicans will lose the House, it’s a dead certainty that they are going to lose some seats in that chamber.

I have no idea what political party John Powers belonged to, nor do I care. What he DID add to our society is the idea that some of our long held beliefs should occasionally be discarded, or at least examined a little more closely. On occasion, even some of my trusted progressive news sources don’t always get the facts right. By the same token, there are STILL a lot of people who think that it makes sense to vote for the Republican Party, even though (to a very large degree) no longer makes sense to do so.

To be honest, I’ve only read the first two books in the “Eddie Ryan trilogy”, but I’m pretty sure that “the unoriginal sinner and the ice cream God” is going to find its way into my hands in the near future.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

canning jars and missiles

When I was in the insurance industry, part of my territory was the state of Indiana. As a result, I wound up providing insurance for Ball Manufacturing Company, which all of us are familiar with, even if your mother didn’t use their jars for her canning.

The company started business in Buffalo, New York, when the Ball brothers purchased a company called the Wooden Jacket Can Company. In 1884, the brothers started to manufacture glass canning jars, and a few years late, moved their operations to Muncie, Indiana.



The company expanded into other product lines during the Great Depression, but took their greatest departure from their roots in 1956, when the management team started an aerospace division. Its first product was a pointing control for missiles.



Since defense weapons have a higher profit margin than glass charges, the company sold its canning business to a subsidiary in 1993. The company moved its headquarters to Broomfield, Colorado in 1998, Although the company continues to sell products to the aerospace industry, it also makes a variety of plastic and metal food storage products.

Although Ike warned us about the “military-industrial” complex in the 1950’s, the defense industry is still a HUGE industry. According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute, worldwide weapons sales in 2013 were $402 billion. The top 10 companies (Ball is not one of them) had sales of over $200 billion, or slightly more than half. 6 of the 10 largest companies are located in the United States of America. The top 2 companies, Boeing and Lockheed, sell a combined total of $75 billion a year.

We all know people who seem to think that having more guns in our society somehow makes us all safer, which is the recent that the Texas legislature recently passed a law to all students to carry weapons on campus. In response, numerous students decided to open carry dildos to demonstrate how still the new law is.

Since Joe McCarthy scared the bejeezus out of all us in the 1950’s, we all know that the Doomsday Clock is. It is now the closest it’s been to midnight at any point in the last 30 years. Fittingly, climate change is now one of the factors that affext the setting, and we just finished the hottest year on record, which proves that global warming IS real.

We’d all like to see an increase in the manufacture of canning jars, and a decrease in the production of weapons, but I don’t think that that’s going to happen anytime in our lifetime.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Benghazi



We watched the Republican convention again on Tuesday night, and I managed to not throw a shoe at the TV, even though I was very tempted to do so.

The big new on Monday, of course, was the speech that Malania stole from Michelle Obama, even though professional speechwriters had crafted a very satisfactory ORIGINAL speech for her.

Both Donald Jr. and Chris Christie brought up Benghazi again, even though SEVEN separate investigations have proven that neither Hillary nor the Obama administration have done anything wrong. The most recent committee, chaired by Trey Gowdy, has lasted two years, and has cost tax payers $7 million. Several members of the committee have admitted that the committee has been conducting a “witch hunt” against Hillary, and Gowdy has been found guilty of altering documents to promote his cause.

Having the mothers of 2 of the victims at Benghazi speak at the convention would have to be classified as a very tacky move, but since the Republicans literally has nothing else positive to say or report, their only option is to bash “the other guys.”

Truth be told, the Benghazi incidentally is entirely the fault of the Republican in Congress.

In 2011, Congress cut $128 million from the administration's request for embassy security funding, and House Republicans cut $331 million in funding for security in 2012, even though Hillary Clinton warned them that it would be a very bad idea.

then ...

Banghazi happened.



Naturally, the GOP is blaming Hillary and Obama.

Clinton's emails have also gotten a lot of attention from conservatives, but exhaustive investigation by both the State Department and the FBI found no wrong doing on Hillary's part. Her two predecessors in the state department also used private email servers, and Gowdy himself STILL uses a private email server while conducting official business.

To put Benghazi in perspective, there were THIRTEEN embassy attacks when George W. Bush was President, and 60 people died. NONE of them were investigated by members of Congress.

Although 90% of the American public knows that we need better gun laws, the GOP trotted out Chris Cox from the NRA to claim that the gun laws are fine just the way they are. It’s good to be concerned about the 4 people killed at Benghazi, but it’s more important to be concerned about the 30,000 people that are killed every year in this country by guns. Even after the worst mass murder in our history occurred recently in Orlando, the Republicans in Congress did NOTHING about gun violence, in spite of the fact that the Democrats in the Senate staged a filibuster, and the Democrats in the House staged a sit in, in an attempt to force a vote.

During the prime time broadcast in Cleveland on Tuesday night, cameras scanned the audience, and revealed the fact that an awful lot of seats were empty. A brave woman carried in a banner that denounced racism, but she was quickly surrounded by a handful of bigoted attendees, who are unlikely to admit that racism exists in the Republican Party.

Even though 97% of the scientists in our country admit that global warming is real, the Republicans still cling to dirty energy. A number of attendees had signs that read “Trump digs coal”. A high percentage of the pollution in our country comes from coal fired power plants. Coal plants are the nation's top source of carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming.

If you included the economic costs of coal pollution, you'll discover that it is around $100 billion a year in America.

If you've been watching the Republican convention at all, you've come to the realization that the circus has, indeed, come to town. What was striking about all of the prime time speakers at the convention is that NONE of them (including Trump himself) offered ANY concrete solutions to the problems that we all face. True to form, Trump also stated in his closing address that only HE was able to fix America’s problems.

Several pundits this morning mentioned that they would have preferred his speech in the original German, since its tone was strikingly similar to words that were spoken in Germany in the 1930’s.



Now that the circus has folded up its tent and left town, you’re still going to hear a lot about both Benghazi and Hllary’s emails since the Republican Party is unlikely to come up with much that’s positive before the November election. In fact, if you read the 2016 Republican platform, you’d swear that it was 1956 again, but Ike is nowhere in sight. It’s not exactly an optimistic document. Strangely enough, the 1956 Republican platform reads a LOT like the 2016 DEMOCRATIC platform.

You’re going to hear a lot about both Benghazi and Hillary’s emails right up until Election Day, and even long after President Clinton is sworn in to office. If you want the truth about Benghazi, don’t expect to get if from FOX “news”. Hopefully, this article will be of help to you.

Friday, July 15, 2016

those darn Jews





Sharon just finished reading “Inmate 1818”, written by a Holocaust survivor named Bernard Otterman. The book is actually a compilation of 12 short stories that were inspired by the Holocaust and its aftermath. Like virtually all books about the Holocaust, it makes for very compelling reading. Since Sharon had not previously read Elie Wiesel’s “Night” or Victor Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning”, I have both of them on order from the local library. Since Mr. Wiesel just died on July 2 of this year, the reserved list for “Night” is very lengthy. Although he wrote a total of 57 books, “Night” is the one that is best known by the general public.

Although we’re all familiar with many of the details of the Holocaust, the best way to get a strong perspective on the atrocities committed by the Nazis is to visit the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, or the llinois Holocaust Museum and Education Centerin Skokie, Illinois. I’ve been to both of them, and found them to be very informative. The Skokie museum was especially interesting due to the fact that it houses an authentic railroad car that was used to transport Jews to the various concentration camps used by the Nazis.

If you live on the East Coast, you may also want to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Discrimination against Jewish people started long before the rise of the Nazis. In 1492, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain expelled practicing Jews from Spain. Their order was titled the Alhambra Decree, and was also known as the Edict of Expulsion. Jews were allowed to stay if they converted to the Catholic faith, and over 200,000 of them did so. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Jews moved from Spain. The punishment for Jews who did not convert or leave was summary execution.

The origins of the Holocaust in Germany did not actually start in Germany. The origins actually started in the good old USA.

The theory of “the master race” is an outgrowth of the philosophy of eugenics. The modern practice of eugenics emerged in the early part of the 20th century at roughly the same time in both England and America. During that same time period, anti-Semitism was a big problem in America, as exemplified by none other than Henry Ford, whose publication of “The International Jew” in the early 1920’s was an inspiration to Adolf Hitler, who had a picture of Henry Ford on the wall of his office in Berlin. Not surprisingly, the KKK was the strongest in our country in the 1920’’s. The 1923 Konclave in Kokomo, Indiana was the largest ever held in this country, with over 100,000 people in attendance.



Although the second wave of the KKK was the most fervent anti-Jewish group, the current itineration of the group has sworn to uphold “Christian morality”, even though virtually every Christian denomination has condemned the group. The current national director of the KKK a Baptist pastor named Thomas Robb, who was “awakened to the myth of the Holocaust” when he was 13. While still in high school, he was an active member of the John Birch Society, the predecessor to today’s Tea Party.

Henry Ford was far from the only prominent American in America who didn’t like Jews. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was the public spokesman for the America First Committee, which opposed involvement in the war in Europe. Although Lindbergh never ran for office, an intriguing look at what a Lindbergh Presidency would have been like can be found in Philip Roth’s “the plot against America”.

After Kristallnacht occurred on November 10, 1938, it became obvious to German Jews that they needed to leave the country, but they received little, if any, help from other countries in the world. One of the most glaring examples of world indifference was the voyage of the MS St. Louis,which set sail from Hamburg to Havana on May 13, 1939 with 937 refugees from Nazi Germany. Then, as now, refugees were looked upon with distrust, and Cuba refused to allow the ship to dock there. After being denied entry there, the ship went to the United States, which also refused to allow the refuges to disembark. After Canada also refused to allow the boat to dock, it returned to Germany, where SOME of the refugees were taken in by other European countries. Ultimately, though, more that 200 of the refugees died in Nazi concentration camps.

Although Donald Trump and the FOX network have fanned the flames of Islamophobia in this country, the reality is that more Jews in America are victims of hate crimes than Muslims. According to the most recent date from the FBI, there were 1140 victims of religious hate crimes in our country in 2014, and 57% were against Jews. Muslims amounted to 16% of the total, and other groups (including Catholics) made up the balance. All told, the FBI discovered a grand total of 7164 hate crimes in 2014. Of that total, nearly half were due to bias against race, and 66% of those were due to anti-black bias.

Oddly enough, references about Jews are largely absent from the news today, so why it is important to consider what happened in the past to a religious group that constitutes .2% of the world’s population (14.2 million people)? At its peak in 1939, the world Jewish population was 17 million, but the Holocaust eliminated 6,000,000 Jewish people, bringing the total to 11,000,000. Of the 14,000,000 that are alive today, roughly half live in the United States.

The answer to that question is that the bigotry that condemned those 6,000,000 people to their deaths is still very much alive today, and we need to do as much as we can to contain it. The best way to do that is by voting for the right people.

The Republican National convention starts this week in Cleveland. Although I plan to watch at least a portion of it so that I can watch the chaos unfold, it’s obvious by now that NONE of the Republicans running for office in November should be elected, and Donald Trump is, by far, the worst of the bunch. Any political group that discriminates against people of a certain religion, or discriminate against people because of their skin color, their national origin, their sexual orientation, or their gender, is simply not fit for office.

Shalom

Monday, July 11, 2016

why I don't watch television, part 2



About three years ago, I wrote a short article about the troubles that I’ve had trying to watch television:

this is WAY too complicated

Since I published that article, we have moved from Flagstaff to Tucson, exactly one year ago. Although we retained Century Link as our internet provider, we changed to Comcast for our television network because Direct TV (with the channels that Sharon liked) was no longer available in Tucson.

In February of this year, we BREIFLY switched our cell phone service from Sprint to T-mobile, which was an absolute disaster. I published the gory details of that episode on March 9 of this year. In the end, everything worked out fine. We switched back to Sprint, and both of us now have smart phones, which has made our lives a lot easier.

Roughly three weeks ago, I made the mistake of upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10, which turned out to be another disaster. The net result of THAT change is that the only home computer that I now have is a 9 year old laptop that I borrowed from our son. Fortunately, the brand new router that we got from Century Link gives us Wi-Fi capabilities on our phones, which takes care of virtually all our internet needs. If I need to write a lengthy article, the country library (with its brand new computers) is only about 3 miles away.

Now, back to the television …

In January, I sold our aging surround sound system (which we were no longer using) to the local pawn shop for $200, and used that money to buy a new “smart” flat screen TV for roughly the same amount of money. Sharon wanted to have everything controlled with one remote, so she called Comcast out to the house to guide her through it all.

So far, so good.

The only problem was that we could no longer get the DVD player to work. To fix THAT problem, I had to buy a new DVD player that had HDMI connections. In order to get the DVD player to work, we need to use the Vizio remote that came with the TV (after we have used the Comcast remote to turn it on) to switch to the HDMI2 mode, and then we need to use the remote that came with the DVD player to make it all work.

So far, so good.

Sharon now decided that she wanted to add Netflix. After putting in her password, Netflix did not work.



So..

This morning, she called Comcast and asked them to walk her through the operation of the channel. After they checked the connection on their end, they asked her to call Century Link due to the fact that Netflix needed Wi-Fi to work. On the bottom of our router are three separate combinations of numbers. One is the key/password, another is the WPS pin, and the third is the administrator password. As it turns out, the key/password is the one that we needed. After we finally got THAT number entered correctly, they advised us to call Visio, who finally was able to get Sharon to where she wanted to go. After that, it only took one more phone call (to our daughter) to help navigate through the different channels.

Now that the television is finally working to our satisfaction, we've decided that we are NEVER MOVING AGAIN.!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

the devil made me do it



I’ve never been terribly superstitious about numbers, even though my new bride and I got hit by a deer on our honeymoon – on Friday the 13th. Our first home together was just off of Highway 13 in West Paul, Minnesota, and our first pet was a black cat.

I wrote about triskaidekaphobia more than 7 years ago. The link below will help you explore other superstitions that are given credence to around the world.

do you feel lucky,punk?

Although the Muslim religion is the world’s single most popular religion (with 1.3 billion adherents), Christianity actually has the most in total, (at 2.1 billion) if you lump the 1.2 billion Catholics with the other Christian religions. For a lot of Christians, the number 666 takes on special significance because it is the sign of the devil. The verse confirming that the “number of the beast” is 666 is found (ironically enough) in chapter 13 of the book of Revelations.

For a period of time, my sister’s telephone exchange in Los Angeles was 666 (her full number was 213-666-xxxx). That fact never bothered either one of us, and it’s unlikely that it ever bother too many people in “tinseltown”

However…

The folks who live in the Bible Belt would likely be horrified if “666” somehow found its way into their phone numbers. For a period of time, it did. The town of Reeves, Louisiana (deep in the Bible Belt) actually DID have a 666 area code for a period of time, starting in the 1960’s. After much lobbying by the folks in town, the phone company finally agreed to change the number in 2007 to one that it less controversial – 749.

Here’s a few other little known facts about “the sign of the devil”:

1- on 6/6/06, the average 30 year mortgage in America was 6.66 %

2 – The first Apple computer retailed for $666.66 due to the fact that Steve Wozniak picked the price because it was easy to type with one finger.

3 – If you add up the numbers on a roulette wheel (0 through 36) you’ll discover that they add up to 666

4- When King Solomon was reigning, he collected 666 talents of gold every year (see 1 Kings 10:14) , which works out to about 60 pounds.

5 - In the DaVinci Code, Dan Brown listed the number of panes of glass in the Louvre as 666, which is actually pretty close (it’s 673)

6 – Stanley Kubrick, producer and director of 2001, died 666 days before the start of the year 2001.

7 – Although Chinese people consider the number “4” to be unlucky (because it rhymes with the Mandarin word for death) they actually consider “666” to be a lucky number. As a matter of fact, some people actually pay extra to include the number in their phone numbers.

If the number “666” somehow makes its way into your life, don’t be too concerned about it. There’s always the possibility that it could be a hell of a lucky number for you.

Monday, June 13, 2016

snakes !



Nothing will get your blood flowing faster in the morning than discovering that you have a snake in your backyard - which is precisely what happened to us this morning.

Since our backyard is enclosed, we normally let the cats out into the yard in the morning to get a fresh breath of air before the temperature starts climbing towards triple digits.

This morning, both cats were staring at a "critter" that was under the patio furniture in the back yard. When the critter moved, both cats jumped back at least 2 feet. On closer examination, we discovered that there was some kind of snake curled up under the table. Since Sharon swore that she heard the thing rattle, she called the fire department. In less than 15 minutes, the fire department had come to the house, and successfully removed the snake.

As it turns out, the snake in question was a gopher snake, and it is totally harmless. In fact, it is beneficial to have them around since they keep down the rodent population.

In North America, there are 50 species of snakes, and almost all of them are harmless. The correct technical name of the gopher snake is Pituophis catenifer. However, there ARE some snakes that you definitely want to avoid.

The 4 types of poisonous snakes are the Copperhead, the coral snake, the cottonmouth, and the rattlesnake.

They look like this:

copperhead



coral snake



cottonmouth



rattlesnake



Although the cottonwood snake is normally found in the eastern parts of the United States, the other three can be found throughout the country. If you encounter any of these critters, the best thing to do is to move away from it, or to let it cross the path of the trail you are hiking on before proceeding.

If you happen to see one in your back yard, the safest alternative is to simply call the fire department.